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Attorney forced out of Oak Harbor law firm

An Oak Harbor attorney was forced to withdraw from his law firm after he was accused of improperly depositing money from a client’s trust account into his personal banking account, according to Island County Superior Court documents.

Douglas Saar’s name was dropped last month from Law Offices of Skinner & Saar, one of the most well-known law firms on Whidbey Island.

Attorney Christon Skinner said he knew nothing about the allegations until he received “a successor trustee’s report” last month which detailed alleged improprieties and over-billing by Saar. He said Saar was acting as trustee for the Edwin and Emily Upton Trust outside of the law firm and without his knowledge.

Skinner said he immediately asked Saar, a minority shareholder, to leave the firm.

“It’s a sad development,” he said, “but I have no choice in that situation other then to sever ties when I discovered impropriety.”

Skinner said he was obligated to report Saar to the state Bar Association for alleged unethical conduct. He said Saar “improperly co-mingled” trust funds with his own.

Hans Juhl, a Seattle attorney representing Saar, said the parties involved in litigation over the case reached an agreement, in principal, at the end of last week.

Saar could not be reached for comment.

Clarke Harvey, a Clinton attorney, was named as the successor trustee to the Upton trust last summer after Saar was removed. He wrote an “accounting and report” as well as a “supplemental accounting and report” which detailed the short history of the trust, which is described as being worth about $320,000.

Harvey wrote that Saar deposited $42,000 from the trust into his personal account. Harvey said he discovered that the files from Saar didn’t include any information about the cash, so he asked Saar about it.

Saar said he forgot to mention it and later gave Harvey a cashier’s check for the money, the report states.

“In light of the new information that I have received, there are serious questions as to whether Mr. Saar has breached his obligation to the Trust, and the extent of any negligence or misconduct on his part,” Harvey wrote.

A motion filed by Langley attorney Carolyn Cliff, who is representing Upton’s son, states that Saar paid himself from the trust nearly $68,000 over six months.

Cliff described the fees as “extraordinary.”

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